Russian strikes hit outskirts of Ukrainian capital and Lviv
Lviv: Russian forces pressed their assault on Ukrainian cities Friday, with new missile strikes and shelling on the edges of the capital Kyiv and the western city of Lviv, as world leaders pushed for an investigation of the Kremlin’s repeated attacks on civilian targets, including schools, hospitals and residential areas.
The early morning barrage of missiles on the outskirts of Lviv were the closest strike yet to the centre of the city, which has become a crossroads for people fleeing from other parts of Ukraine and for others entering to deliver aid or fight.
Black smoke billowed for hours after the explosions, which hit a facility for repairing military aircraft near the city’s international airport, only six kilometers (four miles) from the centre.
One person was wounded, the regional governor, Maksym Kozytskyy, said.
Multiple blasts hit in quick succession around 6 am, shaking nearby buildings, witnesses said.
The missiles were launched from the Black Sea, but the Ukrainian air force’s western command said it had shot down two of six missile in the volley. A bus repair facility was also damaged, Lviv’s mayor Andriy Sadovyi said.
Lviv lies not far from the Polish border and well behind the front lines, but it and the surrounding area have not been spared Russia’s attacks.
In the worst, nearly three dozen people were killed last weekend in a strike on a training facility near the city.
Lviv’s population has swelled by some 200,000 as people from elsewhere in Ukraine have sought shelter there.
Early morning barrages also hit a residential building on the northern edges of Kyiv, killing at least one person, according to emergency services, who said 98 people were evacuated from the building.
Two others were killed when strikes hit residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, and Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection.
In city after city around Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety have been attacked. Rescue workers searched for survivors in the ruins of a theatre that served as a shelter when it was blown apart by a Russian airstrike in the besieged southern city of Mariupol Wednesday. And in Merefa, near the northeast city of Kharkiv, at least 21 people were killed when Russian artillery destroyed a school and a community center Thursday, a local official said.
In Kharkiv, a massive fire raged through a local market after shelling Thursday. One firefighter was killed and another injured when new shelling hit as emergency workers fought the blaze, emergency services said. In the northern city of Chernihiv, dozens of bodies were brought to the morgue in just one day.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that American officials were evaluating potential war crimes and that if the intentional targeting of civilians by Russia is confirmed, there will be “massive consequences.”
The United Nations political chief, Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, also called for an investigation into civilian casualties, reminding the UN Security Council that international humanitarian law bans direct attacks on civilians.
She said many of the daily attacks battering Ukrainian cities “are reportedly indiscriminate” and involve the use of “explosive weapons with a wide impact area.”
DiCarlo said the devastation in Mariupol and Kharkiv ”raises grave fears about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing intensifying attacks.”
About 35,000 civilians left Mariupol over the previous two days, Kirilenko said Friday.
In Mariupol, hundreds of civilians were said to have taken shelter in a grand, columned theater in the city’s center when it was hit Wednesday by a Russian airstrike.
On Friday, their fate was still uncertain, with conflicting reports on whether anyone had emerged from the rubble.
Communications are disrupted across the city and movement is difficult because of shelling and fighting.
“We hope and we think that some people who stayed in the shelter under the theater could survive,” Petro Andrushchenko, an official with the mayor’s office, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
He said the building had a relatively modern basement bomb shelter designed to withstand airstrikes. Other officials said earlier that some people had gotten out.
Video and photos provided by the Ukrainian military showed the at least three-story building had been reduced to a roofless shell, with some exterior walls collapsed. Satellite imagery on Monday from Maxar Technologies showed huge white letters on the pavement outside the theater spelling out “CHILDREN” in Russian — “DETI” — to alert warplanes to the vulnerable people hiding inside.
Across Mariupol, snow flurries fell around the skeletons of burned, windowless and shrapnel-scarred apartment buildings as smoke rose above the skyline.
“We are trying to survive somehow,” said one Mariupol resident, who gave only her first name, Elena, on the outskirts of the city Thursday. “My child is hungry. I don’t know what to give him to eat.”
She had been trying to call her mother in another town. “I can’t tell her I am alive, you understand. There is no connection, just nothing,” she said.